Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship

The Supreme Court late on Wednesday sided with religious challengers to New York state’s latest coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court barred New York authorities from enforcing some limits on the number of people attending services in churches and synagogues in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The ruling highlighted the court's recent rightward tilt as newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettBiden begins staffing commission to study Supreme Court reform: report In Biden, the media finally have a religious president to celebrate Rubio reintroduces amendment to block court packing MORE sided with four other conservative justices in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal judges in the dissent.


The ruling marked a shift for the court, as earlier this year, before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgIn Biden, the media finally have a religious president to celebrate NYC street and subway signs transformed to welcome Biden, bid farewell to Trump Schumer and McConnell trade places, but icy relationship holds MORE, it ruled 5-4 on similar cases out of Nevada and California.

Barrett was quickly confirmed to the bench following Ginsburg's death in September.

In the unsigned majority opinion, the majority ruled for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, who argued that New York's caps on the number of people who could attend services in designated coronavirus hot spots violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment due to the orders being more restrictive than on other facilities.

In court papers, New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis Cuomo says New York can begin to loosen restrictions: 'Don't get cocky with COVID' Disjointed vaccine distribution poses early test for Biden MORE (D) had argued that restrictions on houses of worship were necessary in order to stem the surge of coronavirus cases in the state.

Lower courts had sided with New York in the case.

Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court denies review of former NY lawmaker's corruption conviction Undoing Trump will take more than executive orders LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE wrote of his ruling that it seemed contradictory to say it was unsafe to go to church but not to shop for a new bike.

"So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike," Gorsuch wrote.